Sunday, June 30, 2013

5 Pinoy Lifestyles You Can Experience At Hyehwa-Dong

How should I describe Hyehwa-dong? 

All I know is that Hyehwa-dong is one of awesome places in Seoul, South Korea. But let me get some help with my best friend, the Wikipedia, to describe the place to you.

Wikipedia says:

"Hyehwa-dong is a vibrant neighborhood, with colorful nightlife and walking streets that are closed off to traffic in the evenings. The area has coffee shops, restaurants, basketball courts with numerous food choices including an American style diner similar to Johnny Rockets (Platters), and is a large theater district. It is adjacent to the Seoul National University Hospital, with many young people near this neighborhood."

What better way to describe the place I think is to show to you some pictures I took during my visit to the place. Wiki says it's a vibrant place, by the look of it, vibrant is an understatement, Just look at how colorful and happy the ambiance at Hyehwa:

Of course, we could not neglect the sightings of amazing pieces of arts:

But there is one thing special about Hyehwa-dong, it's a haven for Filipinos who are here in South Korea. There is this one area at Hyehwa-dong where Filipinos flocked every Sunday because of the Sunday Market hence making the place a little Philippines. This is a parcel of South Korea where Filipinos can just feel at home, thanks to the marks of "Filipinism" which is visible at this part of the foreign country. If you are a Filipino and you are here at South Korea, just go to Hyehwa every Sunday to experience the Filipino spirit in a foreign land. 

It's a great relief when after you bustled with the foreigners and Korean nationals riding a train to Hyehwa, you will see familiar faces and hear familiar language. It's like a Diagon Alley in Harry Potter, one second you are in a foreign ambiance, but after a few more steps, voila!!! Welcome to the Philippines. You will be greeted by some Filipino vendors with a smile "Kababayan, bili na po kayo dito, mura lang po!!!!" on the sidewalk of South Korea. It makes me say, whoaahhh, this is home!!!

And having said that, I guess the first Filipino mark that we could see at Hyehwa is the Filipino Market.

1. Filipino Market

When we say Filipino Market, it means an all out Filipino mark. The shanties, the vendors and all the foods and goods that they are selling.

From vegetables, to personal hygiene, to foods, name it and you can find, well most of it, at Filipino Market at Hyehwa. So if you feel like using the regular Filipino Toothpaste, i.e Colgate, Close Up, etc, or the regular Filipino soap, i.e. Safeguard, Bioderm, etc, or the regular Filipino Deodorants, i.e. Axe, Rexona, etc, or the regular Filipino foods, just go to Hyehwa and you can get it all in one go. But of course it comes with a price considering the importation of the products and the effort of our Kababayans to sell it.

2. Filipino Foods

Filipinos are everywhere, and so as the Filipino foods.

Yes, Filipino foods reached South Korea and you can definitely find it at Hyehwa. In all fairness, they gained not only Filipino customers but also some Korean Nationals. If you think the Filipino foods are served in a cool and luxurious ambiance, you are definitely wrong. To savor the Filipino spirit, these foods are displayed at the sidewalk, it's just like the turo-turo style of eating in the Philippines. 

3. Filipino Catholic Church

One best landmark at Hyehwa-dong is this Filipino Catholic church that stands tall and strong in the heart of the city.

This church is so popular that Filipino church-goers visit this every Sunday to attend a mass. If you will go there, chances are you will bumped with your good ol' friends and acquaintances just like what happened to me.

I went there alone just for the heck of experiencing the mass and found some awesome acquaintances there. The place is also a good meeting place for eyeballs and meet ups since it is very popular there.

4. Filipino Street Singers

This filipino religious group is in for collecting love gifts from fellow Filipinos in the area.

They are doing this for a cause, maybe for their church or for their ministry. Listening to them makes me feel like I am in the Philippines. This gesture is very Filipino.

5. Ukay ukay stores

Ok, we mean it or not, Filipinos love to buy pre-loved goods. 

We are known to be practical people, so we sometimes prefer to buy branded but pre-loved goods because it is way cheaper than the brand new and Koreans know this fact. So they put up this ukay ukay store in the sidewalk of the little Philippines of South Korean, and guess what, they are selling the items like a hot cake.

I can say that this Filipino market at Hyehwa which opens every Sunday is worth a visit especially if you are a Filipino. It's like taking a bite size of a taste of our home country, and being with fellow Filipinos, albeit strangers, makes me feel that I am indeed belong.

If you want to go to Hyehwa-dong, just take line 4 of the Seoul subway. Take exit 1 and you will know you are in the right place if you will see hundreds, and maybe thousands of Filipinos in the place.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

3 Life's Lessons I learned from Larva- A Korean Animated Series

Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Tom and Jerry.
Jack And Jill.

These are several duo cartoon characters that have become part of the childhood of every human alive today. The reason for popularity of these cartoon characters is because they cater not only to kids but also to adult. South Korea has also created their own version of duo cartoon characters and they call it LARVA. Meet these two awesome and funny slugs, the devious Red and the big and tacky Yellow.

Photo credit to Pedro Parkero
Like Tom and Jerry, the scenes between the red and yellow slug is dialogue-less which is good so they can be able to reach a wider audience other than Koreans. I first watched this animation show when I was riding on a bus. The red and yellow slugs on the TV monitor captured my attention. There is no dialogue, just pure music, albeit the expression and the gesture are quite enough to make me laugh. The scene was too hilarious that I deliberately laughed causing a little bit of havoc to other passengers. Who would think that an adult would laugh like that to a kiddie cartoon show? From that time, I became an instant fan of Larva and I always watch the show on Youtube before I hit the sack.

Larva I may say is not only for Kids. I can sense that the creator behind this animated show is targeting adult audiences too. I want to share what I learned from the show in an adult perspective.

1. Mishaps are part of life, have fun with it.

Not a single episode of larva would pass without mishaps. In fact, the show is all about the misadventures of the two slugs. It’s like, for every action they make, you expect that something wrong will happen, and that is where the fun begins. Without these misadventures, the whole concept of the show would be boring I think. The unfortunate accidents are the spices of the show and that what excites me to watch it. I want to see how they can be able to recuperate with the bad luck. But what really makes me amaze with the two is that, they are just like having fun dealing with the problems. Even if their lives are always at stake, I can’t help but just laugh at them.

I maybe appear masochist if I am going to advice everyone to just enjoy the problems. What else can we do? It’s part of life. If you feel very depressed and tired looking for solutions for your problems, I’ll tell you, you couldn’t solve it. Why not just take it easy? Just do what you can and enjoy every action you make, every ideas you think, and savor every moment with your troubles. You will be surprised that all of these problems will just go away.

2. True friends will hurt you upfront, deal with it

Since this is a series of the two comical bugs, you can see them sometimes rummaging food in the garden, climbing over a potted plants, racing in an unknown forest, and dealing with other nature bugs and animals. The two main characters are always in competition with each other causing them to hurt each other hence the misadventures commence. Red Larva will hit Yellow larva, and vise versa.

But what is good about them is that despite the killing, the jealousy, the envy, and all the hatred that they show to each other upfront, they remain partners and friends. True friends should hide nothing from you. If they dislike you for something you did, they must tell you and not the other people. If friendship is tested with a lot of troubles and misunderstanding, it will last long.

3. Vengeance causes trouble, stay calm.

Yellow larva will hit red larva and the red larva will do the same. It’s funny how these two bugs hurt each other. The gestures suggest that it’s fun to poke at somebody and hit back but it also teaches as a lesson that there is a corresponding consequences for retribution.

Take for example this one scene where red larva is about to turn into a butterfly. So he confined himself into a cocoon and waited for few days to become butterfly. But here comes the yellow larva, amazed with the white round ball hanging which happens to be the cocoon of the red larva. He was not aware that his friend red larva is inside the cocoon and he mistaken it as a punching bag. So he punched and punched the ball until it was destroyed. He was surprised that a pre mature butterfly appears from the white cotton ball. Butterflies are beautiful, but if premature, you could imagine how gruesome it is. So the red larva is very angry with the yellow larva for postponing his metamorphosis. The next day, the red larva saw a big cocoon, he assumed it contains the yellow larva. He took the opportunity to revenge, so he punched and punched and punched, but what came out of a cocoon is not a premature yellow butterfly but a monster bug. The yellow larva came out of nowhere, then it dawned on them that the red larva hit something scary, and they run and run and run. You see, the intention is to revenge, but see what happened, both of them are now in trouble.

Korea is well known for dramas and reality shows, but people don’t know that Korea can offer good animation series like Larva. It’s a good show for kids and for kids at heart because it does not only make viewers happy, it can also be a good source of life’s valuable lessons.

Monday, June 24, 2013

8 Common Things You Can See At the Subway Stations of South Korea

If there’s one thing I love about Korea, it’s the transportation. The subway system is very amazing that even first timers and  those who could not understand Korean language can travel alone without getting lost, and if ever you get lost in the subway, you don’t need to worry about  the fare because you  will not be charged  unless you go out of the subway station. So it’s ok if you transfer from one station to another figuring out the right way to your destination without actually getting charged. The subway stations across the country are interconnected by railways, though extensive, they were able to manage to connect and come up with a subway map that can be easily read and follow.

If you see something like this, there’s a subway station that exist underground.

You need to literally go deep down under to ride a train.

Travelling via train is smooth and fast. You can definitely do what you want inside the train until you reach your destination. It is very comfortable and you can just feel like you are at home. You can sleep, you can read, you can play with your mobile device or you can just sit and relax just like what these Filipino commuters do.

If you are wondering what’s inside the subway station, I will share to you the 8 common things you can see in most stations here in South Korea.

1. Ticketing Machines

There are a lot of ticketing machines installed everywhere in the subway station eliminating the long lines and providing convenient paying of fare for commuters. To ride a train, you must have a T-Money and this is where you can reload your T-money if it is running out of cash.

2.  Waiting Area

While waiting is definitely not a trend here as everything goes so fast, subway stations never fail to provide benches while waiting for the train. You could also wait beside the railway which is protected by grills for the passenger’s safety. These Filipino commuters even posed on the waiting line.

3.  Touch Screen Monitors

If you wish to check which line you need to follow to reach your destination, just touch these monitors installed on the wall of the station and you will get a very large subway map for easy reading. For standby mode, advertisements will show up, so there’s a little bit of business included here.

4. Payphones or Freephones

Running out of load and you need to call someone? Don’t worry, while payphones are becoming obsolete, Korea’s subway still believe that there’s a need for this. I have read somewhere that you don’t need money to call because it’s free, I was not able to confirm this though.

5. Emergency devices

If something happens like fire or accidents, these handy devices can help you call for authorities’ attention.

6.  TV Monitors

Information like the name of the station, the date, the time and the current location of the train can be seen here. Just look above and you will see these TV monitors.

7. Vending machine

For quick fix for growling tummy and dry throat, you can have some coffee, chocolate drinks or some cola from these vending machines. Some stations have actually food stalls and convenience stores if in case you need to buy something without getting out of the station

8. Signage and Information Board

Every station is full of bulletin boards and signage. If you look everywhere, you can see all these signs and information translated in English which is a very big help for travelers.

I guess, the subway stations of Korea have been properly planned and designed because I just think that everything seems to be perfect. This is what we called efficient transportation, no wonder some prefer commuting than taking their private vehicles because aside from a not so expensive fare, you can travel seamlessly, and of course the sight of beautiful Korean passengers is a plus.

Monday, June 17, 2013

2 Asian Food Stores Spotted At Geumchon Traditional Market

Geumchon, anyone? You probably haven't heard this place in South Korea and it even doesn't ring a bell. Well, for sure, it's not really the primary choice of any tourist to visit, but if you are an Asian and you are craving for food coming from your home country, go to Geumchon and you will find 2 markets that sell asian foods.

I have discovered this place when my co-worker, a Vietnamese, invited me to go with him at Geumchon. As I can barely understand him, I just followed him even though it's already late at night. You can reach Geumchon  through the subway at Gyeongui line and it is about 40 minutes away from Seoul.

Geumchon traditional market is just like any ordinary market. At night, there are a lot colorful lights and it's a little bit old.

I like the market because it is not too crowded and it's clean, well probably because we went there late at night.

But what captured my interest is the two markets that existed there that sell asian foods, and when I say Asian, I mean Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and the great Philippines. Think of any Asian country, you can find all their products at Geumchon Market.

One Asian market is called World Store. It's obvious from the name of the store that they are literally selling world's product. This one is located at the inner part of the market.

If you want an asian market near the Geumchon station, that is to save your time and your energy walking, you can find this just a few meters away from the subway station.

It's a store called World Food Mart. Well, just like the first one, the name of the store says it all.

What can you find from these stores? I think you are familiar with this?

Right!!!! Products from the Philippines. I was nostalgic when I saw these stuffs.

Of course, these unfamiliar products came from other Asian countries.

If you are living in the Northern part of South Korea, i.e. Paju, Wollong, Geumnung, etc., you can travel to Geumchon for some Asian food trip via the subway train or by bus.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

6 Visible Signs That You Are in the Border of North and South Korea

When I was selected to work in South Korea under the Employment Permit System or EPS of POEA, I first checked the location of my company. In the contract, the address is "Paju-si Gyongi-do South Korea" and I immidiately checked it using the Google Maps. Paju-si is in the Northern part of South Korea and some OFWs told me that the area is in the border, in short a perfect war zone if the Korean war will pursue. Paju-si is where the Korean army base is set to defend the country against North Korea. Regardless, I still signed the contract and to cut the long story short, I arrived at Paju-si Gyongi-do South Korea safe and sound.

I remember how I wished to be assigned in the limelight areas like Seoul or in Gangnam or in places known to many people. Paju is 3 hours away from Seoul via the subway, it's an urban city but quite developed too. I commend Korean Government for paying attention even to the most outskirt part of South Korea.

At first, it didn't dawn on me that I was living in an area where the DMZ or Demilitarized Zone is set, but there are a lot of visible signs everywhere reminding me that I am indeed in an area branded as the border between the North and South Korea. Here are the 6 visible signs that you are living in Paju-si:

1. The Bridge between North and South Korea

You see that bridge? It's a bridge connecting the North and South Korea. I can jog my way to North Korea if I want to but it could be a dangerous idea. A few more steps on that bridge and VOILA!!! Welcome to North Korea. If you are riding a bus or a taxi going to Munsan Market, this bridge is very visible.

2. The Physical border

If you think the word "border" here means some imaginary linings, you are definitely wrong. There exists a physical border and by physical I mean the mighty barb wires. It is literally thin line that you can see at Munsan.

3. The Military Base

At my back is one of the many military bases set here at Paju. This is just a spit away from the company I'm working. ROK armies train and acquire their military education here. I was able to see the perspective of the whole camp but I hesitated to take pictures. What you can see inside the camp are classrooms, dormitories, park, church and basketball court. It's like a small community inside so that they will not be bored during their tenure in the base.

4. The Watch Tower

Not literally watch tower, I just invented the name, but you can see a whole lot of this in the border facing the North Korea area. I haven't seen somebody on post though, maybe when the war commence, this will become active.

5. The Armors

What is a war without the weapons? Machine guns, naval weapons, missiles, etc. Name it and South Korea has it. In fact, you could see these weapons installed in every mountain of Paju facing the North Korea. I don't know if these are actives but I am sure that activating is not a problem if it calls the need to do so.

6. The ROK Armies

You could see them in the bus, you could see them in the subway, you could see them in the market and you walk with them. It's like a living reminder that you are indeed in the war zone. These Korean men in uniform are almost anywhere in Paju, what else can you expect? We are surrounded by military camps.

Paju si may not be the primary choice for foreign workers or even tourists, but I can say that it is more than a privilege to live in this side of South Korea because we can identify whether the war thing between North Korea and South Korea is serious or not, unlike what the TV networks (esp. in the Philippines) is broadcasting. If you are planning to go here in South Korea, why not take time to go up the Northern part and see the area that will defend the whole of South Korea if the war transpires.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

10 Big Companies in South Korea I Want to Join

South Korea I may say is a progressive country. There are countless of big companies thriving in this country and I think this is a perfect place for ambitious people like me. There could be a lot of opportunities waiting but I'll tell you, this country is very strict when it comes to accepting foreign workers. Unless you are a native English speaker and you are after English teaching position, applying for jobs in the most coveted companies is like next to almost impossible.

If you want to get a job in South Korea, you must acquire a working visa first and each visa can be obtained depending on the type and the scope of work it allows. As much as I want to penetrate to big companies, my Visa does not allow me to do so. I don't want to go illegal so I am doing the best way I can to at least make my Visa valid to apply for jobs that best suit my abilities.

If given a chance, I am going to apply for any of the following 10 great companies in South Korea:

1. Samsung Electronics

First on my list is no other than the Samsung Electronics. Who wouldn't want to join the world’s biggest technology firm? In South Korea, Samsung is the largest company ever listed. Samsung has a lot of  industrial subsidiaries like insurance and heavy industries but I like to tap on their Electronics conglomerate which includes manufacturing of Samsung Mobile device. I want to be a part of a company that helps shape the world's technological advancement.

2. LG Electronics

Second on my list is LG Electronics, a competitor of Samsung Electronics. Like Samsung, LG Electronics is a multinational company that operates on various businesses. I want to join the Mobile Communication division.

3.  KT Telecommunications Services

I am also interested to join the bandwagon of telecommunication service provider, so I think KT Telecommunications Services is a perfect company for this choice.

4. Com2uS

Play at work is what I think when I hear Com2Us. Being one of the top companies in South Korea that specializes on developing fun and unique games for Smartphones. Game tester could be a very lucrative job and I want to do it with this company.

 5. Daum Communications

I love internet and I want to just browse on the web for information. Daum Communications is just another web service provide in Korea. It's like Google or Yahoo because it provides web services like email, forums, shopping and news.

6. Hyundai Group

One of the most popular, if not the biggest company in South Korea is the Hyundai. I can take any job from any Hyundai conglomerate because I know I am in good hands with this company.

7. Korean Air

I think it would be exciting to join an airline company and I want to join the Korea Air, the largest airline in South Korea. Korean Air is also included in the top 20 airlines in the world. Being a cabin staff for this airline could be a good idea.

8. SK Group

Particularly the SK Telecom. There are a lot of SK subsidiaries in South Korea, in fact it is the third largest conglomerate in South Korea, but if base on my education and experience, I think I am suited for a position in the telecommunication department.

9. Korean Broadcasting System

Who does not want to work on media? Aside from earning a lot, you can have the chance to see the brightest K-pop stars and artists of South Korea. There are four major TV networks in Korea and KBS is the biggest network so far.

10. S-Oil

I am thinking to join also the Oil industry. S-Oil corporation is I think the best option for this. Why not? I think employees of S-Oil are getting a handsome pay from this petroleum and refinery company.

Nothing is impossible. I know in due time, I could acquire a working Visa that allow me to join at least one of the companies I mentioned above. Keep the Faith!!!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

3 Farming Ideas in Korea That We Should Imitate

If you will ask me what part of South Korea I like most, I would say Seoul, and I will not be surprised if other foreigners will answer the same. Branded as the second largest metropolitan area in the world, Seoul is the perfect place to represent South Korea. However, only few foreigners have the chance to experience the lifestyle in the rural areas. Beyond the gourmet restaurants in the major cities, Korean culture can be deeply sensed in small cities and villages that are not known to people outside Korea.

I am lucky enough that I was able to venture to parts of South Korea where you can see the source of popular Korean foods. If you will visit these small unknown places, all you can see is vast area of farming land. In this place, you can eat fresh leafy vegetables that were grown in the backyard. I am no vegetarian, but since I stayed here in South Korea, especially in a place where vegetables are tangible everywhere, I learned to eat leaves and I am proud of that because I know it's for my own good. Even my boss has its own garden of vegetables and when I say "garden", I mean this:

This could be a source of livelihood for one family in the Philippines, but Koreans usually grow their own vegetables in their backyard for their own consumption. I like how Koreans manage their farm or even their gardens. They are so initiative when it comes to farming. No wonder they have the best crops and they even surpassed China when it comes to agriculture. I observed three farming ideas that we must follow to improve our agricultural products, let me introduce to you one by one.

1. Organic Farming

It is amazing how Koreans manage to grow their crops without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Did you see this thing here?

Yes, that is an animal dung. Instead of using fertilizers, they use this as an alternative. The manure is very  effective in fertilizing the soil. If we can just collect animal dung (yes, it takes an effort like that), it is better than using the processed fertilizer. Aside from the cost, we don't know how it affects our environment.

I didn't see also some pests over the plant's leaves or even flying insects. I don't know how they did that but I am sure they did not apply any pesticides. It could be because of the clean environment that these plants grow so healthy and safe from pests. Most Koreans practice the Indigenous Microorganism or IMO technique in their agriculture.

2.  Plasticulture

Ever wonder why Koreans used to wrap their soil with plastic films like this?

There are a lot of reasons why they do this. First is to keep the perky weeds from growing near the plant. Second is to protect the soil from erosion. And third is for vegetable insulation.

Basically, what they will do is to compile the soil, then they will wrap it with Polyethylene or the plastic film and create enough hole to accommodate the seed of the plant.

I can say it's a wise idea especially when you see your crops growing so healthy like this:

3. Rice Transplanting

Like any other countries in Southeast Asia, rice is one of the major food in Korean diet. That is why they have given rice agriculture great emphasis to yield bigger production. Through modern farming technique, Koreans were able to plant rice in the fastest way possible. They are using rice transplanter for a fuss-free planting.

Photo courtesy by Wikipedia

These mat type nursery cakes are being arranged adjacent to each other at the side of the paddy field. Through the use of the transplanter, this will be distributed evenly onto the field and it would take 5 minutes to finish one line compared to the cumbersome traditional process of planting..

I am really amaze with Korean farmings. I can see how farmers yield greater result in any measurable metrics. Natural farming at par excellence with better yield and better quality, the world would be better if we cultivate our lands the Korean way.